With more accumulated knowledge on the topic of cancer, it’s a lot easier for people to understand the basics of the disease even if they don’t personally have it. However, even with knowing the basics, the disease is not as black and white as we would like it to be. For example, most people understand that cancer undergoes four stages, with stage IV being the most terminal. However, cancer is different in everybody depending on the cancer type and its location. Furthermore, some tumors are more aggressive than others, and because of this, people are still left with unanswered questions.
When it comes to breast cancer specifically, staging is used to describe tumor growth, its biomarkers, how many lymph nodes it has affected, and how extensive the disease is. In addition, the TNM system is used to accurately measure the tumor size in centimeters and how aggressively it develops. This is then documented with three letters that are calculated based on certain characteristics. “T” represents the size of a tumor and determines whether or not it has developed in nearby tissues. “N” represents whether cancer has spread into the lymph nodes. Finally, “M” represents if the tumor has metastasized. All are represented with a number (i.e. T1, T2, T3, T4, N1, N2, N3, MX, M0, and M1). Most of the time patients are unaware of the stage or size until they undergo additional testing and screenings. These tests will help oncologists know what kind of treatments the patient will need for the best chances of survival moving forward. With that being said, people who have either suffered from breast cancer, knew someone with breast cancer, or have lost someone due to breast cancer often ask what each stage represents.
Stage 0: The Beginning
Stage 0 breast cancer begins as a noninvasive tumor or shows pre-cancerous cells within the breast. At this stage, cells appear atypical but don’t indicate whether or not they are malignant or benign. This cancer is normally known as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). People with stage 0 breast cancer will not experience any early signs or symptoms unless it is detected in a form of screening such as a thermography, although, a tumor size may not be identified. The TNM system will categorize this stage as “Tis” or “Tis Paget’s”. This means that a possible cancer is confined within the ducts of breast tissue but has not spread to any nearby tissues or lymph nodes. However, even if this seems promising, patients are encouraged to speak with a practitioner or oncologist to seek some form of treatment to prevent the growth of anything that is possibly malignant.
Stage I: The Early Stage
When a tumor graduates to stage I, it provides more clarity on whether the tumor is malignant or benign. In most cases, the tumor becomes malignant, however it’s also common that these tumors stay benign and remain localized to one area. In a case where the tumor is malignant, a stage I tumor cell will have spread to surrounding breast tissue but still remain contained to one area. Stage I is divided into two categories depending on the tumor size measured by the TNM system. These categories are:
- Stage IA: in which the tumor is approximately 20 millimeters and shows no evidence of spreading to lymph nodes. The TNM system measures this as T1c (larger than 10 mm but less than 50 mm).
- Stage IB: in which the small tumor is less than or equal to 20 millimeters with additional cancer cells in certain lymph nodes. Similarly, this stage is also measured at a T1c.
Stage II: The Growth
During stage II, the tumor still remains localized, however seems to have grown in size. As a result, this can also mean that lymph nodes may or may not have been affected. Those with stage II breast cancer may experience a lump within the breast or underarm, breast pain, nipple discharge, and swelling. Similar to stage I, stage II is also divided into two categories:
- Stage IIA: the tumor in the breast is between 20 – 50 millimeters. The tumor could either still be localized in one area or spread to certain lymph nodes located underneath the arm.
- Stage IIB: the tumor is larger than 50 millimeters (T3) but remains localized.
Stage III: The Spread
When a tumor becomes stage III, it has graduated to an advanced stage of breast cancer that diminishes one’s prognosis. One major symptom of this stage includes inflammation of the skin or ulcerated wound. The stage is divided into three subtypes:
- Stage IIIA: the cancer has spread anywhere between one to three lymph nodes outside of the original area. The tumor is about 50 millimeters (N1-N2). Or, if there is no tumor present, but has been found in between four to nine nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage IIIB: the tumor has spread within the chest behind the breast or towards the skin. Additionally, it may have affected about nine underarm lymph nodes in proximity to the breast bone.
- Stage IIIC: the cancer has spread to one of these areas: the skin, underarm lymph nodes, or collarbone lymph nodes.
Stage IV: Metastasis
Known as the most advanced stage of breast cancer, stage IV is when the cancer has not only spread to nearby lymph nodes, but to other distant parts of the body such as the lungs, liver, pancreas, brain and bones. Unfortunately, some patients aren’t diagnosed with breast cancer until they reach this stage. The tumor can be any size and much more difficult to treat because of its quick ability to spread, metastasize and become less responsive to treatment. In other cases, stage IV cancer appears as a reoccurrence from a previous breast cancer battle.
Prevent Breast Cancer Growth
While the prognosis of women diagnosed with breast cancer have increased, the disease is still one of the leading causes of death among women. At LifeWorks Wellness Center, we have successfully treated breast cancer of all stages using natural remedies for 23 years. Our treatments include insulin-potentiation therapy (IPT), ozone therapy, intravenous therapy, peptides, supplementation and the ketogenic diet.
LifeWorks is an alternative medical facility located in the heart of Clearwater, Florida. If you or someone that you know have been diagnosed with a form of breast cancer, please call to schedule an appointment with one of our cancer specialists at 727-466-6789.